Monday, 12 November 2012

NaNoWriMo and Distractions Galore

Edgar Allen Poe may have continued writing through joy, sorrow, hunger, thirst, sunshine and moonshine, but I know for sure he never had the distraction of deleting his entire iTunes library from a computer and then finding only half of it remained in the recycle bin. That was my big distraction on Sunday 11th November. I guess I could just sync to the iPod, but I only ever listen to the music on my laptop, so haven’t bothered to update it for two years and don’t want to lose anything I’ve added in the meantime.

He's going be a new character in my novel.
Anyway, them’s my computer woes, and they came after going to a family birthday on Friday night, staying up late imbibing too much and not writing on Saturday. So a grand total of 942 words ended up being written over the weekend, putting me 2K behind, which I should be able to catch up on this week (crosses fingers).

My other big distraction is research. This NaNo novel is a sequel to my first Tudor novel, so I know most of my characters very well and, having taught the Tudors for many years, I am fine with the period. But wouldn’t you know it – the characters are all going to new places, travelling by modes of travel they didn't use in the last book and even meeting people who don’t speak the Queen’s English, and all of that requires research.

So far I have researched accusations of witchcraft, symptoms and treatments for gout (oil of stag’s blood and poultices which cause dreadful blisters were two suggestions), the start of ‘tulipmania’ in the late 16th century, sea journeys and Dutch ports, the city of Haarlem, 16th century Dutch names and Dutch vocabulary. You can spot a theme building there, I’m sure.

I love the research. It’s all great fun. However, it does consume vast amounts of time and that is holding up my NaNo word count. Luckily, I am on my own in the house during the week and not due to hold down a proper job until January (fingers crossed again), so I will have the time to do this.

I am pleased with the way the story is developing, and I started this novel with a plan, unlike the first one, where the planning began somewhere after chapter four. I am resisting the urge to edit, which, I have to say, is helping the story flow, even if, when I do look back over the pages, I do wince a bit. This is advice I’ve read from many an author – get the story out there, edit later.
Dutch river scene
As part of NaNoWriMo, I have joined the local Cambridge writing community on the NaNo website and on Facebook. I even ventured along to a ‘write-in’ at the CB2 café in central Cambridge and met a lovely bunch of writers. However, I seem to be more productive writing at home, in my lonely garret, which is actually a lovely, refurbished study with views of the garden courtyard and its out of place palm tree (not my garden design, I hasten to add). Maybe I should try meeting the Wrimos (or is that winos?) at their Wednesday evening social meets? Oh no, that requires being brave again!
My garden view

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

A Newbie's View of NaNoWriMo

I'm really into fiction writing this month, having launched myself into NaNoWriMo, which, if you haven't heard of it, is National Novel Writing Month. I don't know who first came up with the crazy idea of writing 50,000 words in one month, but it's been going for a fair few years. I'm a nervous newbie to this. I see it as a way of giving me a kick up the rear in getting started on a sequel to my first novel, a Tudor adventure for teenagers. While I send out this first novel in batches to addresses on my well-researched list of agents, I can't just sit here and twiddle my thumbs. That way lies the path to madness - right? So, in a grand gesture of optimism, with visions of two-book deals and all, I am embarking on my sequel, with a target of 1700 words to be written daily, every day, during the month of November.

Another reason for taking part in NaNoWriMo is the hope that I'll hook up with some local writers. I've only been in this area for just over a year, and don't know that many people yet - not that I'm lonely - I'm pretty much fine with my own company, even with my husband working away from home during the week. NaNo has regional groups, you see, and they meet up for 'write-ins', wage 'word wars' against each other via an online chatroom and have social meets in the pub. It all sounds good doesn't it? But it's also a bit scary - putting yourself 'out there', meeting new people, doing different things, and for me there is the irrational fear that they'll all be younger than me. Now that shouldn't make a difference, I know, but somehow it does. I decided to avoid the first social as it was being held in a student pub on Hallowe'en - a sure fire guarantee to make me feel out of place, but today I am going to be brave and go to a ‘write in’ in a local café.

One excellent tool to come to my attention via NaNo so far is the ‘Write or Die’ app. On its website it states its aim is to ‘put the prod into productivity’. It certainly had that effect on me, since the first two paragraphs of today’s blog were written in ten minutes while trying out the site. The Write or Die website suggests that working with the Sword of Damocles swinging over your head will force you to write:

by providing consequences for distraction and procrastination. As long as you keep typing, you're fine, but if you become distracted, punishment will ensue. Everything is configurable, name your word goal, time goal and preferred punishment, then start writing. Once you're done, export your writing to Dropbox, Email, Clipboard or Text file.

So, if you don’t fancy the harshness of your words suddenly starting to disappear because you’ve stopped typing, you can always set it at a gentler method. If the general idea of any kind of punishment is all too much for you, there other, similar site, which work  solely on rewards – such as Written Kitten. At the very least this way of writing will add a little fun into what might otherwise become a repetitive process. I’m not sure how I’d fare on a longer timescale. I have only done it for ten minutes. Maybe I’ll ask some of the more experienced NaNo writers at my ‘write-in’ today.